37,000 Irish nurses to take 24-hour strike action

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Image caption The union says this is only the second time it has held a national strike since it was formed 100 years ago

Thirty-seven thousand nurses in the Republic of Ireland are to strike for 24 hours on 30 January in a dispute over pay.

They are members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) which argues that a shortage of nurses is impacting on patients and staff.

The union is calling for a 12% pay increase.

In a statement, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) said it was "disappointed".

The proposed rise in pay would bring nurses into line with other health professionals like physiotherapists.

On its website, the INMO said it was giving three weeks' notice to allow for safety planning.

"The strike will see INMO members withdraw their labour for 24 hours, providing only lifesaving care and emergency response teams," the statement said.

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The union said it would be only the second national strike in its 100-year history.

INMO President Martina Harkin-Kelly said: "We entered these professions because we care for our patients. We'll be going on strike for the exact same reason. Ireland's patients deserve better than this understaffed health service.

"Nurses and midwives are now globally traded assets. The public health service no longer pays a competitive wage, so we can no longer get the necessary number of nurses and midwives."

The HSE said it acknowledged the right of staff to engage in industrial action.

However, it added: "Industrial action at any time is severely disruptive in the health service, but is even more so at this time, given the demands and pressures that currently exist in all areas of service delivery within the health services."

The HSE said it would seek a meeting with the nurses' union and would strive to avert "unnecessary industrial action".

"Industrial action can only occur within the terms of the Public Service Pay Agreement, which has been accepted by all parties including the INMO," the statement said.

Last year, the Public Service Pay Commission in the Republic of Ireland rejected an across-the-board pay rise, opting instead for a €20m (£17.9m) package of allowances targeting areas where shortages are worst.

The government has repeatedly insisted that it could not deliver a 12% pay increase as it would cost about €300m (£270m).

However, the INMO insists that their demands can be met within the framework of the current public service pay agreement.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association, which has also voted overwhelmingly for strike action, is due to meet later this week to finalise its strike plans.

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